Two new polls show Mitt Romney leading in Iowa

Daily Staff

Two polls of likely Iowa caucus goers agree that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is currently the top candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has fallen from his onetime lead.

Romney leads with 25 percent of likely caucus goers in CNN/Time/ORC International’s poll, while Rasmussen Reports shows him in the lead with 22 percent.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul came in second place in both polls, and the gap between him and Romney was within each poll’s margin of error.

Both candidates have been in first and second place, respectively, in past polls. Former Sen. Rick Santorum advanced in the polls to place third in each poll.

Santorum surged to third place in both polls and captured 16 percent of likely caucus goers in both polls. That’s an improvement of 11 points in the CNN/Time/ORC International poll and six points from the previous Rasmussen Reports poll.

In a video explaining the results, Scott Rasmussen said, “the Santorum surge may have been helped by an endorsement from a key evangelic leader last week [Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats], but there is more to it. Right now Rick Santorum is not only in third place on the first choice, he is on top of the poll in terms of who is the second choice for the nominee would be.”

Rasmussen also speculated that Santorum has benefited from being in the back of the pack. He hasn’t been the target of many attack ads and has a relatively good image in Iowa.

One time frontrunner Gingrich has declined in the polls. CNN/Time/ORC International’s poll has him down to 14 percent of likely caucus goers, a decline of 19 points. Rasmussen Reports shows Gingrich attracting 13 percent.

Gingrich’s campaign has attributed his decline to attack ads run by his competitors. As the recent frontrunner, many ads appearing on Iowa’s airwaves and showing up in Iowan’s mailboxes have targeted Gingrich’s past.

“Iowa’s a very small media market. You can basically blanket the airwaves if you have enough money. And I don’t care what candidate is in the race, if you have $9 million in negative advertising against them, (they are) going to drop in the polls,” Gingrich communications director Joe DeSantis told CNN.

Rasmussen said that Romney and Paul have remained at the top for the whole month, but that many Iowans are still making up their minds.

“Like Republicans across the country [Iowans are] looking for two things. Number one they want someone who can beat Barack Obama next November, and number two they’re looking for someone who can do something with it after they beat him,” Rasmussen said. “They haven’t found the ideal match yet.”

— Information from the CNN Wire Service and Rasmussen Reports contributed to this report.